BCS Showdown- Debate Continues

BCS Watch responded to my last post against the BCS, and so I wanted to post my rebuttal before I leave town for a week. I like the points he makes and thinks he has some valid arguments, but I want to address the main points of the argument, which are:

1. Money

2. Importance of the regular season

3. Fairness of access to the BCS

With these three main points in mind, I’m going to see if I can explain my position on why a playoff improves college football in every aspect.

It’s all about the money in college football

Sad but true to a certain degree. Football is the biggest money maker on a lot of campuses across the country. I still hold fast to the idea that since college football is not a professional sport and the players are not paid, it really shouldn’t be about the money at all. But that is a different point altogether, the case at hand is the money making aspect of the BCS.

The BCS currently has 4 premier bowl matchups and a championship bowl game. That makes five competitive, nationally televised games that bring in revenue to the BCS system. All other bowls have nothing to do with the BCS and won’t be considered for this argument. Now enter a sixteen team college football playoff. Each higher seed hosts the lower seed. The first round gives you eight competitive, nationally televised games. The second round brings you four competitive, nationally televised games. The semi-finals give you two and the championship tops it off. That makes 15 games. If my math is right, then since 15 is three times as many as 5, then the revenue from a playoff would be three times more than with the current BCS system.

Not to mention that since these are home games we are talking about, the stadiums would sell out ALL 15 of those games. Plus ratings would increase since people are much more interested in watching a game that means something when all is said and done. I know from a business perspective that it ain’t broke, so don’t fix it. The BCS makes more and more money each year, so why change it? Good point, it doesn’t have to be changed in order to make money, but the opportunity cost of not changing is incredible. Any sensible business person with half a brain can figure out that tripling your games would bring in more revenue. There has to be another reason the BCS stays put, because they can’t hide behind money, since not using a playoff is leaving a lot of money on the table.

But the regular season loses importance in a playoff!

How important is the regular season to 55 teams in the FBS right now? Two of them never lost a game in the regular season and yet had no chance of ever playing for a national championship. Right now the regular season means nothing to about half the teams in college football. WIth my playoff plan, each conference sends at least one representative to the playoff, meaning each and every game between each and every team means something. Conference championships mean something across the league. Non-conference games affect your potential seeding in the playoff.

With winning your conference being the best way into the playoff, this would encourage more competitive non-conference play. This isn’t because the games mean less than they do now, they mean something else. Instead of the loser of USC-Ohio State having no shot at the BCS title, they are playing for playoff position ie: being a higher seed. That’s why every game in NCAA Basketball matters- running the table in your conference can get you in, but losing 12 games out of conference will not get you any higher than a #12 seed. The same goes for football. You have two elements now- getting into the playoff and getting a good seed in the playoff. If a game doesn’t affect one, it surely affects the other.

Again, college football is a unique sport. You only play your conference rivals once each season, not twice or more. The regular season is always going to be unique and important and watched. My whole point is that by making the postseason more accessible and making the championship something any team can win, you just made the regular season INFINITELY more important than it is now. Making the postseason more meaningful by default makes the regular season more meaningful.

But schools from weak conferences don’t deserve to compete with the big boys

I’m going to explain some circular logic here. In college football, we seem to measure how good a team is by the teams they beat. So in order to be better than another team, you have to beat better teams than them. In order for the teams you beat to be better than the teams they beat, the teams you beat have to beat good teams. But those teams are only considered good if they have beaten good teams, etc. Last year, at the end of the regular season you couldn’t possibly say Florida was definitely a better team than Utah. Florida beat better teams than Utah. That doesn’t automatically translate to Florida must then be better than Utah, only that they played completely different teams because they come from completely different conferences. They had one team they played in common, Alabama. Utah thrashed them, Florida had a fourth quarter comeback. Yet in the final poll, Florida was number one. Why? Because they beat more good teams than Utah did. How is that at all logical?

In order for you to be considered good, you have to beat good teams. So whether you are good or not, no one will consider you good if your conference loses a lot of games. Even if you go undefeated and are quite possibly the best team in the land, no one considers you such simply because the teams you beat happened to lose a lot of other games. But if teams never play the same schools, how can you possibly compare? What if all 11 conference champions this year go undefeated, who do you say is the best? The guys who beat the better schools? How does that mean they are better, because they have proved something? If you don’t give me a calculus test to pass, does that mean I don’t know calculus?

The big differnece in college football is that players are not paid. The talent pool is not equal across the board because you cannot trade, sign free agents, etc. You have recruiting and that is all. Naturally, the schools with more prestige, better facilities, better coaching, etc. will attract more of the talented recruits than schools with poor facilities and little to no prestige. College athletes want to go pro, and that is easier to do from USC than it is from Akron State.

So with the BCS keeping the schools with lower recruiting classes down, they never give them the opportunity to gain prestige. What do you think happened to Florida after they won 2 BCS championships in three years? I bet a lot of recruits on the fence picked Florida. Imagine if Utah had won last year. I bet they steal a lot of recruits from Pac-10 schools and other MWC schools. Winning is the only thing you can do to attract better recruits. By keeping the non-BCS conferences on low-profile terms, the “big time” schools stay that way, and they know it.

Open up a playoff where each conference gets to send their champion and see what happens. See what happens if Utah and Boise state end up in the final four. See what happens if the mighty SEC schools are always the first to get eliminated. Watch recruiting trends. We all know recruits are the key to keeping dominance in college football. The dominant schools don’t want to give up dominance, plain and simple. If you’re going to call it the FBS, then let it be one league. Let all 120 teams compete against each other. Because right now there are 65 teams competing with each other and 55 bystanders trying to make a name for themselves by maybe spoiling one of those other guys.

Anyway, I just think the only right way to do a playoff is to guarantee each conference champion a spot. Otherwise it is still just unfair. And if Michigan State thinks they have a better chance of getting to the playoff by joining the MAC and “creaming” the competition, then by all means, do it. Then we get the conferences more competitive. Imagine if Arizona and Arizona State joined the MWC and Hawaii joined the Pac-10? What if Missouri and Baylor break for CUSA and Houston hops onto the Big 12? It might level the playing field a bit and make the conferences a bit more equal, more like they are in professional sports. I don’t see a problem with that.

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